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Huffington Post UK Slow To Gain Traction, Faces Tough Regional Competition

Arriana Huffington

I was reading an interesting post today by the Guardian’s Peter Preston in which he performed a quick tally of comments per article on HuffPost UK’s top 10 blogs. Peter found that three weeks ago the sites stories were receiving just 2.9 comments each, one week later they had jumped to 3.9 comments per article and last week just 5.4 comments, even on stories following the eye of the London storm. Those numbers might be fine for a personal blog or small regional newspaper but Arianna Huffington once boasted that some articles on HuffPost can receive upwards of 10,000 comments.

When launched great success was suspected by the Huffington Post right out the gate, however it should be noted that the HuffPost has operated for years without a true profit, in fact AOL lost $11.4 million in the second quarter 2011, despite increasing site numbers in the U.S.

Putting UK numbers in perspective, the Huffington Post U.S. just claimed their 100 millionth comment, with 175,000 comments estimated to occur every 24 hours.

So what’s causing the slow growth in the UK? The answer comes directly from the man I introduced at the start of this article, Peter and his co-workers at the Guardian.co.uk offer left leaning articles that are respected throughout the UK, while the company’s CiF (Comments are Free) section allows contributors to post articles for decent pay (up to $140 for an 800 word column), while Arianna Huffington often requests free or extremely cheap labor from her writers.

HuffPost UK also can’t rely on celebrity linkbaiting in the UK as they have in the U.S. because the Daily Mail has a grip on much of the tabloid type content free aggregation services rely on for traffic numbers.

Another issue for HuffPost UK? While they may be hiring UK writers, while attempting to integrate themselves into British culture, some users don’t seem pleased with the company’s overall platform. One user wrote in the comments section of Peter’s article:

I checked HP (HuffPost U.S.) to see what they were making of the riots. Every other comment mentioned the clash, sex pistols or london’s burning.

Those comments arrived from U.S. users on the U.S. site, yet readers in the UK simply haven’t looked past that fact, even though HuffPost UK (located at Huffpost.co.uk) offers their own comments and stories written by writers who live in the country in many instances.

Arianna Huffington is an enticing figure in the U.S., however under the ownership of AOL her appeal has waned for many writers especially those who don’t want to work for free or nearly free under the AOL moniker, it will likely be an uphill battle in the region but AOL isn’t afraid to lose some money on projects they believe in, that may be the one saving grace for HuffPost UK.

It will be interesting to see if the Guardian.Co.Uk faces the same type of uphill climb now that they offer a U.S. division for their content.